She is most well-known in Europe for her adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s book Confessions of a Shopaholic to manga. But artist and story-writer Yishan Li’s versatile style is appreciated both across east and west and ranges from traditional Japanese manga to the more modern style that western audiences tend to enjoy. Li is one of the artists taking part in this year’s edition of Malta Comic-Con, where she looks forward to meet both fans of her work and those who are keen on developing their talent for manga. She shares some of her thoughts with us. This interview first appeared on the Sunday Times of Malta’s Culture section. How, and with what, did your interest in manga start? Manga was very popular when I was in middle school in China. Everyone was reading Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball. I read a lot of classical manga at the time and was always drawing. You are known for romantic, somewhat ‘girly’ work, like the adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. Would you say that this reflects your personality? I guess so. I love fashion and all girly stuff, so I think it’s quite natural for me to draw these themes. I have to say I prefer the works to reflect my personality because it feels way easier and more fluent for me to draw. It’s like the difference between keeping a diary and writing an essay. But, of course, I love doing other kinds of work too. I think I need challenges to sharpen up my skills. Which is your favourite work so far? Les Contes du Boudoir Hante. It’s a three-issue mini series that was published in France by Delcourt and that focuses on traditional Chinese ghost with a romantic angle. Your style varies from European (like in Confessions) to more traditional manga. Which style do you prefer and how difficult is it to switch between the two? I am really fine with any style. At the moment I am moving toward the more realistic style of European/American comic, because most publishers I am working for now are looking for that sort of style rather than straightforward manga. However, I don’t find it difficult to switch… it normally takes a picture or two until I get into the new style, but that’s all.
You also vary in genres from fantasy to more real-life stories. Do you have a favourite? Actually I don’t. For me, it’s more about the story itself than the genre. I don’t mind how it is going to be labelled, as long as the story is good and suitable for my drawing style. Your work has been published in China, in the US and in Europe. Do you see a difference in the reader market? How do tastes and styles differ? China is more about teen readers and production speed. Readers have no patience to wait. US readers are more accepting of original, English-language manga. The European market is very arty and you are encouraged to give your work a very distinctive style. What are you currently working on? I am working with award-winning actor/writer/director Noel Clarke (of Doctor Who, Star Trek and Kidulthood fame) on a new graphic novel called Girl 1. The novel will be released in five issues and will be published by Titan in 2015. Meanwhile, I am working on some new books with DC comics, but it’s too early to reveal more details. What is your advice to those who want to start drawing manga? You will need to read a lot, copy a lot and draw a lot. This will be your first time at the Malta Comic-Con? What are you expecting? I am expecting much better weather than Scotland and a great audience. I love travelling around the world attending different comic conventions. Seeing people from diverse cultural backgrounds enjoying the same thing in their different ways is one of the biggest pleasures. Yishan Li will be available for signings and drawings at the Malta Comic-Con on November 29 and 30 at St James Cavalier, Valletta.